A Pennsylvania grand jury’s report alleging unprecedented levels of sexual abuse and cover-up by Roman Catholic clergy has drawn reaction from Southern Baptists.
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear said Southern Baptists should respond to the report by taking all steps necessary to eradicate sexual abuse “from within our community.” Commentators from two SBC seminaries noted both the unique ways Roman Catholic doctrine may have contributed to the alleged offenses and the ways evangelical Protestants likewise have shamed themselves through sexual misconduct.
The 900-page grand jury report, released Aug. 14, named more than 300 Catholic clergy members in Pennsylvania — though some names are redacted — who allegedly abused more than 1,000 victims over seven decades, beginning in the 1940s. The victims, “most of whom were boys,” were “brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all,” the report stated.
On a positive note, “much has changed over the last fifteen years” in the Catholic Church, according to the report, including better reporting to law enforcement by church officials and the establishment of “internal review processes.”
Yet “child abuse in the church has not yet disappeared,” according to the report. The grand jury charged two priests earlier in its investigation with sexual abuse.
Many of the accused priests are dead or their alleged crimes are beyond the state’s statute of limitations for prosecution, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Some accused clergy disputed the report’s allegations, and their responses were included in the report. A spokesman for one accused cardinal told The Inquirer the grand jury investigation involved a “flawed process” aimed “unwaveringly toward a predetermined result.”
Greear, who announced in July he would form a Sexual Abuse Prevention Study Group, told Baptist Press, “We grieve over this report from the grand jury. The safety and healing for victims is paramount.
“I also recognize that this is not an isolated problem. We must ask ourselves what bold steps need to be taken in eradicating this horrific sin from within our community. Over the last several weeks, I have heard from many advocates, victims, counselors, denominational leaders and legal experts and look forward to unveiling new steps that we as Southern Baptists can take together,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the grand jury’s allegations are “absolutely, undeniably horrifying.” The alleged longstanding cover-up of abuse may have been facilitated by Catholic doctrine and practice, he said.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, David Roach